Strategically Social - The Untapped Influencer Modeling Opportunity

Since the dawn of time people have been driven to find ways to network. Forty thousand years before the Internet, we connected and shared our stories on cave walls with rudimentary drawings and symbols. Our systems have become more sophisticated, but today’s social media platforms tap into an instinctual desire to build community and share our insights.

In February 2004, Facebook was born and the world shifted on its axis. We all know the story: Harvard whiz kid creates an online yearbook with interactive, social functions. Over 1 billion users and a 2012 IPO of $104 billion later, Facebook is the most popular site on the Web, behind Google.

Facebook was not the first social media network, but it inspired a previously unfathomable and ever-growing portfolio of social media networks, from Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. As of January 2015, there were nearly 2.08 billion active social media accounts worldwide1—that’s nearly one for every four people on earth. And the voices of those people are now infinitely amplified, making word of mouth marketing the most important, and misunderstood, business tool in our arsenal.

As humans use social networks, they leave behind a data trail of choices and patterns. Social network data is rich data, with geo and time stamps of every interaction. It can be curated to understand behavioral patterns and to see when consumers have crossed thresholds to take action and why. It can be used to measure and influence the peer-to-peer conversations we always have recognized as critical to brand-building. And it can isolate behavioral tipping points, shining a spotlight on the critical elements that make a story or a trend spread like wildfire or fade into oblivion.

But today’s social media analytics programs are merely scratching the surface. And while 64 percent of marketing executives believe word of mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing, only 6 percent say they’ve mastered it.2

The real data is living in the emotional depths to which we have been willing to engage in our social media networks. It is in the resonance and realness of our relationships there. It is in the trust we place in word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family. Social media networks have become the cornerstone of the human experience, and have granted us access to the world’s subconscious.

The companies that effectively mine for this type of data, rich with subconscious consumer behavior, and then apply it to their overarching strategic visions, will rule the world.

Social Advice

What are you measuring and why?

Today, it’s almost unheard of for companies to not engage in social media in some way. In fact, the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth found that 93 percent of the Inc. 500 are using at least one social media tool. Yet most companies are missing its full potential.

Based on a North Highland survey of over 200 business decision-makers in the US and UK with revenues of $500 million or more, only 35 percent view social media as a legitimate source of marketing intel, and only 25 percent view it as a source to inform overall strategic business decisions. These are the companies that have a line of sight into the wealth of data hidden within social media networks. These are the decision-makers who know that social media networks are a veritable crystal ball, providing brands with the data that will allow them to give the consumer what they want before they want it.

Ultimately this data leads us back to a very human place.

Social media has democratized influence. No longer does a person of influence need to be a celebrity, politician or journalist. Today, the most influential among us are the people most like us. These people are influential not because of their roles in government or the latest blockbuster movie, but for their personal roles in our life. We have entered into a social network with these people, a network built on a foundation of one or more factors of social network: propinquity, homophily and multiplexity.


Yet influence is just one side of the coin. Resonance – the speed and degree at which social objects change hands – matched with influence brings us to the tipping point in social media.

A message with resonance is one with viral potential. It's one that appears to be everywhere all at once, blowing up your news feed in such a way as to make the information seem unanimously accepted and important.

Resonance, like influence, is difficult to measure and nearly impossible to manufacture. For brands, it requires an ability to tap into a consumer’s emotional core. It requires a roadmap into trust, network structure and consumer subconscious.


The value of such a map can be demonstrated by the “majority illusion” theory discovered by network scientists at the University of Southern California. A network map of these 14 people, who have formed a small social media network, would allow us to identify who is most influential. Engage with the right three people—ask them to share a branded hashtag, for example—and the remaining members of that network will have the illusion that more than half of their friends used that hashtag (image a). Engage with the wrong three and your reach, and your message’s resonance, is diminished (image b).

Strategically Social

But here’s the thing: the structure of the network is the same in both cases, as is the marketing output. The only thing that changes are the influencers targeted.

And it is here, at the apex of influence and resonance, where every marketer needs to be.

What if such a map existed? What if it was possible to build these network profiles, creating a customized path toward influence and resonance?

North Highland decided to stop wondering. We compiled a team of experts, including a computer scientist, sociologist, physicists, and business and industry strategists, to create a capability that would allow us to map a route to this social media apex. Thus was born Influencer Modeling.



1. Smart Insights' Global Social Media Research Summary

2. The State of Word of Mouth Marketing Survey 2014, Word of Mouth Marketing Association,

3. Nielsen,

For more information, please contact:

Brian Clements
+1 770-655-1307

Mike Lang
+1 404-645-7544

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